Ryanair and Ialpa-Fórsa look to be preparing for long battle

Airline warns it may cut Dublin fleet in winter as pilots prepare to stage fourth strike on August 3rd

Ryanair personnel at Brussels airport during a strike by cabin staff on Wednesday. Photograph: Getty Images

Ryanair personnel at Brussels airport during a strike by cabin staff on Wednesday. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Even by its own standards Ryanair was quick to act on a warning earlier this week from chief executive Michael O’Leary that it could reduce its Irish fleet in the winter and possibly cut jobs here partly in response to pilot strikes.

O’Leary indicated on Monday that the airline was considering such a move. Just two days later Ryanair announced that its board had approved proposals to cut its Dublin-based fleet to 24 from 30 next winter. In light of this it has put 100 pilots and 200 cabin crew on protective notice.

Ryanair said the growth of its Polish charter airline Polish Sun, allied to a downturn in bookings and fares in Ireland, partly a result of recent pilot strikes, drove this move.

Whatever lay behind it, the announcement appeared to have blind-sided the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa), an affiliate of public service union Fórsa, which made no initial response.

Around four hours later the labour organisation said that pilots would stage their fourth strike on Friday, August 3rd, and warned that further industrial action could follow.

This was not unexpected. The union’s strike committee had been due to meet on Wednesday, and it was known that it would consider serving notice of further stoppages on Ryanair.

Nevertheless, both announcements raised the dispute’s temperature considerably. Ryanair and Ialpa-Fórsa look as though they are preparing for a long battle. The pilots will continue their action, while the airline says it will begin the process of consulting with staff on redundancy and with offering redeployment to bases in Poland. Neither appears ready to back down on their respective positions.

Ryanair says that it has so far minimised the impact of industrial action, either by Irish pilots or cabin crews in Belgium, Portugal and Spain, on its business. The pilots say Wednesday ’s move by the airline has hardened their resolve.

At this stage it appears that a resolution depends on which side blinks first.